Thursday, May 6, 2010

Farah Mendlesohn reviews Imagination/Space

Strange Horizons has posted an interesting review by Farah Mendlesohn of Gwyneth Jones's Imagination/Space: Essays and Talks on Fiction, Feminism, Technology, and Politics.
Gwyneth Jones won the Pilgrim Award for science fiction criticism in 2008, and this collection makes it abundantly clear why. It's an eclectic assemblage of essays, speeches, and reviews through which runs one distinct thread: a frustration with the consolatory "feminism" she sees in modern science fiction, and a demand for an angrier, more truthful feminism.

Of the best essays in the collection "Wild Hearts in Uniform—the Romance of Militarism in Popular SF" and "Haraway's Cyborgs [Mostly] at the movies" (a review of Patricia Melzer's Alien Constructions, 2006) form a duet. They argue with, first, the ways in which female and feminist writers have been sucked into revisioning, but not subverting, old tropes of the attraction of violence and the power of heirarchies, often succumbing to powerful stories of women's "true" desire for domesticity, or the "Exceptional Woman"; and second, the ways in which Hollywood has taken Haraways's idea of the cyborg and defanged it. The points made are later supplemented by a review of Fantasy Girls, edited by Elyce Rae Helford (2002). Central to Jones's arguments here—and elsewhere—is that this is not something that men do to women, but which women collaborate and conspire at achieving. Gender for Jones is less an issue of bodies and hormone as of attitudes and choices, as played out in her award winning Aleutian series (of which the impressive Spirit [2009], is the latest part). A later, essay, "String of Pearls," discusses the relationship between sex and horror, tries to cut any automatic links between the two, and offers a fascinating interrogation of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart.

Be sure to go read the whole thing.

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